Food & Drink

January 7, 2014

What’s Good Here? Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles

The upscale soul food restaurant draws from historical culinary paths

What’s good here? Soul food, as ethnic as Indian or German food, originally emerged from the Southern slave culture and was carried on and enhanced by African-Americans.

Dishes historically developed from ingredients readily available; thus, items such as collard greens, grits, and okra are considered soul food staples. Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles is an upscale soul food establishment that draws from historical culinary paths, as well as forges new ones.

Chicken, as the restaurant’s name implies, is combined with such items as waffles and French toast.

There is a marrying of traditional breakfast menu items with lunch and dinner items. Co-owner Kiki Smith, for example, says her favorite selection at her establishment is Smothered Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes, while her fiance and co-owner, Tyrone Cyrus, loves the French Toast and Chicken Wings. Large Belgium waffles in a variety of flavors, including original, walnut, blueberry, wheat grain, and chocolate chip, are favorites as well.

The Chicken and Waffle Salad, which is a salad with grilled or fried chicken and waffle bread on the side. Also popular is the shrimp and grits or the fish and grits.

What else? There are some specials, including a $5.99 deal with three wings and a half waffle on Monday.

The children’s menu is not the typical chicken fingers and fries, but, instead, includes a few menu items pared down for small appetites: chicken and waffles, chicken and French toast, and shrimp, for examples. Desserts include apple pie, a chocolate waffle with ice cream, and a customer favorite: the red velvet waffle.

How did it get its start? Kiki Smith and her fiance, Tyrone Cyrus, opened Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles on Aug. 18, 2012. Both brought years of restaurant experience with them to Kiki’s. Both worked at California Dreaming, and Smith graduated from USC with a degree in marketing. “We wanted to start our own business and decided to open a restaurant because we had the most experience in it,” says Smith.

Because soul food is popular not just in the South, and because the chicken and waffle concept has enticed food lovers recently in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Harlem, points out Smith, the owners felt that the culinary idea would be a hit in Columbia as well. “We came up with a menu that is not too complex, but gives customers choices - not just chicken and waffles. Most of the recipes are from my grandmother and mother, and some are my own,” she says.

What is the decor? Kiki’s seats around 150 in an upscale, but casual setting with painted green walls trimmed in black. And with a recent expansion, Kiki’s has a private dining room for parties and meetings.

Who eats here? “Our clientele is just about everybody who loves chicken and waffles, and good soul food,” says Smith.

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